Formula 1 Grand Prix ‘biggest sporting event’ ever staged in Saudi Arabia: Prince Khalid

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 August 2021

Formula 1 Grand Prix ‘biggest sporting event’ ever staged in Saudi Arabia: Prince Khalid

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the F1 race would have going forward. (Supplied)
  • Chairman of Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation talks to Arab News about December’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, ticket sales, F1 legacy

JEDAH: Saudi Arabia was gearing up for “the biggest sporting event the country has ever hosted” when Formula 1 racing roars into Jeddah later this year.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, made his comment about the milestone sporting occasion when he spoke to Arab News ahead of the penultimate round of the Formula 1 World Championship being staged in the Red Sea port city.

Motorsport fans in Saudi Arabia have been rushing to snap up tickets for the first-ever Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix which will take place on the streets of Jeddah from Dec. 3 to 5.

Grandstand, premium hospitality, and paddock club tickets went on sale earlier this week and already demand in the Kingdom has been high.

Government restrictions on spectators at sporting events due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic mean that only a 40 percent capacity crowd can currently be allowed, but it is hoped that more tickets could be released over the coming weeks if the virus outbreak is contained through the global roll out of vaccines.

Prince Khalid highlighted progress on preparations for the event in Jeddah and spoke about the legacy the race would have going forward.

How have early ticket sales been and do you expect the capacity to increase from the current 40 percent restriction?

After tickets went on sale, we have already seen a strong demand in just the first few days. It’s important to say this race is for everyone. We want to offer everybody a fair price so fans can come to the race with their friends and family and enjoy an amazing event.

We love motorsport and we love Formula 1 in Saudi Arabia and the people have been waiting many years for a race to take place in our country.

Although the government has lifted some restrictions, we are still only allowed 40 percent capacity, but we are optimistic we can have full occupancy of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by December.

With 70 percent of the population vaccinated (against COVID-19) and cases not as high as they used to be, we are heading in the right direction. This is great news for the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

What can fans expect when they attend the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

First of all, the Red Sea and the Jeddah Corniche is one of the most amazing places in the world and the weather in December is beautiful.

There will be so much on offer during the three-day event which, aside from the Formula 1 race, will be full of many supporting activities and entertainment, with live concerts, great food, art, and culture to discover in the fan zones around the track and city.

We like entertainment and we like sports, and many Saudis have to travel abroad for many of these events. Now we can offer the people of our country our own unique experience.

Formula 1 street races are usually held on tight, twisty tracks, but the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is set to be one of the longest and fastest on the whole of the calendar. How did this come about?

We know with street races we are quite limited in our options due to the nature of the public roads, but the location we found in Jeddah wasn’t fully developed. That gave us a lot of flexibility to create a very fast street track which will provide us with a very exciting race with a predicted average top speed of over 250 kilometers per hour.

The initial plan was to create a permanent circuit and motorsports city at Qiddiya near Riyadh, and that will host a race in 2023. But as we have such a big fan base here, and 70 percent of our population are aged under 30, we wanted to accelerate our hosting of a Formula 1 race, so chose to create this street track in Jeddah.

As we are four months away from our first race, now all of the infrastructure — drainage, sewers, electricity — is all complete. We expect the track will be ready by early October and all the main buildings, such as the pits, done by early November.

Considering the restrictions of working under COVID-19 regulations, it has been a challenge, but we have a very professional team working on this project that has made this mission possible, not mission impossible.

This year there is a fascinating battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. What are your thoughts on Saudi Arabia potentially hosting the title decider?

I’ve really enjoyed the fight between the Mercedes and Red Bull this year. I was at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix recently and this is what everybody wants to see, the top drivers fighting for the title and for it to go down to the wire.

We wish for it to continue, and we don’t want either side to dominate. We want to see hard and safe racing and for the best team to win.

Why is it important for Saudi Arabia to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix?

It’s the next step on our motorsport journey. We first hosted Formula E, the Dakar Rally, the Cross-Country Baja Rally, and these have been very important for us as we wanted to showcase our country to the world. We also need to think about our future and tourism is important for our economy.

But it’s more than that. We are also bringing motorsport to the people of Saudi Arabia, not only for them to enjoy but to be inspired.

We are building a team to manage this race and as Saudis we want the majority of people who work on this project to be from this country. We have enthusiastic young people in Saudi to show the world what we can do as a nation.

Formula 1 is important to us because it is the pinnacle of motorsport, the most exciting race series in the world, and the biggest sporting event that Saudi Arabia will host.

What will be the lasting legacy of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

We want to inspire people. We want opportunities to build careers in motorsport. One day we want to have a Saudi race driver, a man or a woman, racing in Formula 1 and winning the World Championship.

We want to have Saudi engineers, mechanics, marshals, journalists. For us it’s about building and creating an industry and we want events in the future to be organized and run by the locals here.

We are bringing the race to the Saudis for them to be a part of that story and to enjoy its legacy. That’s why it’s important to align with institutions, such as King Abdul Aziz University, and to have as many people as possible from Saudi Arabia engaged in Formula 1 and to be a part of this amazing opportunity. I can’t wait for the race to start.


Alhasnaa Al-Hammad, Leen Al-Fozan, Nada Abed claim titles at Saudi Fencing Championship

Alhasnaa Al-Hammad, Leen Al-Fozan, Nada Abed claim titles at Saudi Fencing Championship
Updated 45 sec ago

Alhasnaa Al-Hammad, Leen Al-Fozan, Nada Abed claim titles at Saudi Fencing Championship

Alhasnaa Al-Hammad, Leen Al-Fozan, Nada Abed claim titles at Saudi Fencing Championship
  • Trio of fencers won sabre, foil, epee titles at end of Gold Round in Alkhobar

RIYADH: Fencing trio Alhasnaa Al-Hammad, Leen Al-Fozan, and Nada Abed have been crowned overall champions in the sabre, foil, and epee categories, respectively, at the conclusion of the Saudi Fencing Championship Gold Round in Alkhobar.

Ahmed Al-Sabban, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, presented the overall winners with their prizes after the championship’s final round held at the fencing arena in Prince Saud bin Jalawi Sports City.

Dai Al-Amiri won the epee category in the competition for under-15s, while Aya Ammar claimed the foil title in the same age group.

The results of the Gold Round had seen top places go to Shahd Al-Kloub in epee, Leen Al-Fozan in foil, and Alhasnaa Al-Hammad in sabre.


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
Updated 10 min 45 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
  • The 2019 winners’ players are worth $71.76m, while Riyadh neighbors Al-Nassr’s are valued at $71.33m

It is no surprise that Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, the latter despite their managerial change last week, are two of the favorites to lift the AFC Champions League trophy on Nov. 23 — and not just because the final will be held in their home city of Riyadh.

If you follow the money, these rivals should be there or thereabouts. Of the eight teams left in Asia’s premier club competition, the two Saudi Arabian representatives have the most valuable squads. That is according to Transfermarkt, the website used around the world to track and rank such things.

Al-Hilal have the most expensive assets of all, worth a collective $71.76 million, just slightly more than Al-Nassr’s $71.33 million.

The 2019 Asian champions, who defeated Esteghlal 2-0 in the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League last week, have two players whose worth can be measured only by using eight figures. Moussa Marega, who arrived this year from FC Porto, has a value of $11.74 million, but the player worth the most is, unsurprisingly, Matheus Pereira at $17.60 million.

The Riyadh giants beat a number of clubs from the English Premier League and elsewhere to sign the Brazilian from West Bromwich Albion in August. The playmaker showed his worth against Esteghlal with a fine assist for the opening goal. His pass was converted by Bafetimbi Gomis, whose relatively low valuation of $1.88 million is influenced by his 36 years and short contract. The highest-rated local player in the squad is the talismanic Salem Al-Dawsari at $3.76 million. Next is central midfielder Mohammed Kanno at $3.05 million.

Al-Nassr have plenty of gems of their own after a busy 12 months or so in the transfer market. Injury-hit Argentine Pity Martinez has a $14.08 million valuation, which is not that much below the $17.60 million or so the nine-time Saudi champions paid out for the playmaker in 2020. This is something of a surprise given his inactivity in recent months. The club has so far had better luck with its more recent additions, with Talisca valued at $11.74 million, the same as Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar. The highest-rated Saudi player is the excellent full-back Sultan Al-Ghanam at $3.17 million, $821,500 above midfielder Abdulfattah Asiri.

In terms of the AFC Champions League, none of the other six clubs can boast such expensive assets. Persepolis have reached two of the last three finals, but the Tehran giants have only one player worth seven figures. Mehdi Torabi headed the only goal against Istiklol of Tajikistan in the last minute of their second-round match and that can only add to his current valuation of $1.17 million. There is still talent in the squad, however. If Jalal Hosseini was a little younger than 39, then the center-back, who has made more than 100 appearances for Iran, would be worth his weight in gold.

Al-Wahda complete the West Asian quartet after their penalty shootout win in the all-UAE clash with Sharjah. According to Transfermarkt, Sharjah’s squad is valued at $36.44 million — almost three times more than Al-Wahda’s. If so, then coach Henk ten Cate has done well to take the Abu Dhabi club so far. Their two most valuable assets are Joao Pedro of Brazil and Syrian striker Omar Khribin, worth $3.52 million and $2.11 million, respectively. Again, if Ismail Matar was 28 instead of 38 then the winger would be one of the hottest and most expensive properties in Asian football. One also wonders how much more than $176,000 20-year-old midfielder Abdullah Hamad will be worth in the years to come.

Should Al-Nassr or Al-Hilal make it all the way to the final, then they will meet East Asian opposition and there is a good chance that the team will be from South Korea. The third most-valuable squad left in the competition belongs to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at an estimated $25.56 million. The two-time Asian champions have the usual sprinkling of foreign players, with Russian striker Stanislav Iljutcenko worth $2.35 million and Gambian winger Modou Barrow just $352,000 less. There are also plenty of local players worth $1 million or more, signifying the strength in depth that Jeonbuk possess. There are current or former Korean internationals such as attackers Song Min-kyu, Han Kyo-won and Lee Seung-ki. At the back, former FC Augsburg center-back Hong Jeong-ho marshals the defense.

Jeonbuk’s rivals for the Korean title and defending Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai have players with valuations that reflect the talent at the club. There are no huge stars, with Georgian midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili the highest valued at $1.88 million. There are two local players who are worth almost as much, with talented midfielder Yoon Bit-garam and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who starred for Korea at the 2018 World Cup, valued at $1.76 million. Then there are young players such as Lee Dong-jun and Lee Dong-gyeong, who seem a little undervalued.

Pohang Steelers are one of two teams, along with Al-Hilal, with three Asian club championships under their belt. Despite having 39 players in their squad — one of the biggest in the entire 40-team tournament — the Steelers’ entire roster is worth only $12.65 million, about a sixth of those of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. No player is estimated to be worth even $1 million. Left-back Kang Sang-woo is the highest valued at $997,500.

Japan has one club left compared to Korea’s three. Nagoya Grampus’ most expensive player, for any club looking to buy, is Jakub Swierczok. The Polish striker scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Daegu FC last week. There are some other talented strikers at the club, such as Yoichiro Kakitani and Mu Kanazaki, but they are valued lower as they are the wrong side of 30. The most expensive domestic player is 25-year-old center-back Shinnosuke Nakatani.

Fans in Saudi Arabia will get a chance to check out some of these talents in the coming weeks, allowing them to judge just how accurate such valuations are and whether they will increase or decrease.


Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah
Updated 36 min 50 sec ago

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah
  • Saudi Karate Federation President Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri praises tournament which hosted 10 clubs at the Asian Arts Center

RIYADH: Women’s sport in Saudi Arabia continued its rapid rise with the hosting of the 2nd Women’s Karate Championship at the Asian Arts Center in Jeddah this week.

The tournament was attended by Saudi Karate Federation President Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri, who praised the standard of the competition, the organization of the event and the large number of participants, saying all are an indication of the sport’s rising popularity in the Kingdom.

The winners were crowned by Dr. Nouf Al-Hammad, women’s sports officer at the federation, and Dr. Iman Al-Husseini at the end of the tournament in which more than 100 athletes from 10 centers from across the nation took part.

In the individual kata competitions, Lama Abdelaziz from the Heroes’ Steps Center came first , ahead of Sabah Yamen from the Expressions Fitness Center in second and Malak Al-Khalidi from the Heroes’ Steps Center in third.

In the group kata competitions, the Heroes’ Steps Center took first place, with the Asian Arts Center and the Sartieh Center second and third, respectively.

In the fighting disciplines, Malak Al-Khalidi from the Steps of Champions Center won the under 50kg category, while Noura Al-Rashed from the same club won the under 55kg competition.

Dana Mansour from the Asian Arts Center won the under 61kg category  and Rana Viad from the Bagdo Sports Center claimed top spot in the under 68kg.

Al-Shehri also presented the Shield of the Federation to the Asian Center for Martial Arts in appreciation of their hosting of the tournament.


Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore
Updated 21 September 2021

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore
  • It remained an unforgettable evening for Kohli who fell for five in his 200th IPL match

DUBAI: Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore suffered a crushing nine-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday hours after he announced to step down as captain at the end of this Indian Premier League.
It remained an unforgettable evening for Kohli who fell for five in his 200th IPL match and Bangalore were skittled out for 92 with Kolkata spinner Varun Chakravarthy returning figures of 3-13 in Abu Dhabi.
The 32-year-old Kohli, who put out a video message of his captaincy exit on the opening day of the revived IPL on Sunday, is still searching for Bangalore’s first title win in the Twenty20 tournament.
“Sometimes it can take you a game, I hope not two, to get into the tournament, you have to stay with the eight-ball, if you’re not, the other teams will be all over you,” Kohli said after his team’s first match of the UAE leg.
Kohli, who last week announced his decision also to quit India’s T20 captaincy at the end of the T20 World Cup in October-November, has been under close scrutiny as a leader in recent months.
Kohli was made Bangalore’s captain in 2013, but despite his superstar status, the team’s best finish was losing in the 2016 final.
His record without a title is often compared to India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma who has secured five IPL crowns for holders Mumbai Indians.
RCB were at the receiving end of an inspired Kolkata bowling performance with Chakravarthy and Andre Russell taking three wickets each to flatten the opposition batting.
Seam bowler Prasidh Krishna took down Kohli, trapped lbw after the skipper opened the batting with Devdutt Padikkal who top-scored with 22.
Bangalore lost regular wickets to Chakravarthy’s mystery spin that got key batsman including Australia’s Glenn Maxwell for 10 and Sri Lankan import Wanindu Hasaranga for nought.
“Pretty good from Varun, he’s going to be a key factor when he plays for India,” Kohli said of the spinner who is included in India’s World Cup squad.
“It’s great guys who’ve got the opportunity to play at the international level. He’s someone who is going to play in the near future for India, it’s a great sign.”
Shubman Gill, who made 48, and debutant Venkatesh Iyer, who hit an unbeaten 41 off 27 balls, then put on 82 for the first wicket as Kolkata chased down their target in just 10 overs.
The Eoin Morgan-led side need to win five of their remaining six matches to stay in the race for a play-off spot.
The tournament resumed Sunday after it was halted in May because of a devastating surge in pandemic deaths in India, prompting foreign players to rush home.
Many have not come back including England’s Ben Stokes (Rajasthan Royals) and Pat Cummins (Kolkata) of Australia.


World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
Updated 20 September 2021

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
  • The tournament is one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million
  • It will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course

JEDDAH: World No. 1 golfer and Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica, have joined the list of top female golfers for the third Saudi Aramco Team Series tournament in New York.
The tournament, one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million, will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course. The female golf professionals competing include five of the top 20 players in the world.
The organizing committee had previously confirmed the participation of American Solheim Cup stars Lizette Salas and Lexi Thompson, in addition to Anna Nordqvist, who plays for the Ladies European Tour and has won three major championships, including the 2021 Women’s British Open.
“The Solheim Cup was the best example of how much the players and fans liked the team system, so when I learned about the Saudi Aramco Teams Series championship I decided to be a part of it, and I’m really excited to have it on my calendar this year,” Saudi Press Agency cited Nelly Korda as saying.
Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said that the list of names participating in New York will be the strongest yet.
The Aramco Team Series system is a new concept in golf, where the players compete in teams, which is unusual in this individual sport. The prize for each championship in the series is $1 million and teams compete for a prize of $800,000, plus $200,000 for the best singles score over the weekend.